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Shifts in Air Cargo Demand Congesting Major Airports


Shifts in cargo demands due to COVID-19 have led to congestion, inefficiencies, and frustration at major airports around the globe. A major driver of this congestion is unusually high cargo volumes due to a surge in the shipping of medical supplies and a rise in e-commerce. The sharp increase in demand, coupled with a reduction of passenger flights, understaffed ground crews, and new safety protocols, have led to operational breakdowns and an exacerbation of existing operational problems at international airports.

Slowdowns in the US

In the United States, many major airports are seeing operational systems break down due to this surge in cargo demand. In fact, at some airports, it’s taking as long as 5-8 days to get cargo broken down. A number of things, beyond simply high demand, are impacting these breakdown times, including having passenger planes loaded entirely with freight and a reduction in ground crews.

The reality is that most major airports are designed to deal with a combination of cargo from passenger planes and from freighters. However, with the drastic decline in passenger travel, many passenger planes are being filled with cargo. The result is that grounds crews and warehouses are being overwhelmed.

Adding to the delays is the fact that as there are increased changes in how cargo is arriving and being handled, it’s also leading to confusion with ground transportation. These changes are requiring freight forwarders and trucking companies to accept freight from different people and places, which disrupts systems and makes processes less efficient. The overall result is substantial congestion at major airports that are exacerbating operational and infrastructure weaknesses.

Congestion in China and Europe

Similarly, airports in China and Europe have been overwhelmed by the huge demand for PPEs. As there has been a global surge in demand for PPEs, a number of major Chinese airports have found themselves overwhelmed with congestion. At the same time, import gateways in Europe, like Frankfurt, are also seeing unusually high levels of volume and congestion.

As airports around the world deal with shifts in demands and uneven amount of cargo, there is likely to be ongoing levels of congestion leading to slowdowns. Businesses around the world should anticipate these backups and be strategic about logistics during this crisis. For help with your shipments, contact one of our logistics experts today.

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